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Palestinian nun beatified in Nazareth

Nov. 23, 2009 9:55 P.M. (Updated: Nov. 24, 2009 8:17 P.M.)
Nazareth - Ma'an - Thousands of Palestinians attended a beatification ceremony for a Catholic nun in Nazareth on Sunday morning.

In a special mass at the Basilica of Our Lady of the Annunciation, local clergy praised the late Sister Maria Alfonsina Danil Ghattas, an educator who campaigned against illiteracy.

Archbishop Angelo Amato, the Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints who presided over Sunday's ceremony, said Ghattas devoted her life to helping others. She died in 1927 at the age of 83.

Born in Jerusalem in 1843, Ghattas co-founded the Congregation of the Sisters of the Most Holy Rosary of Jerusalem in the 1880s in Palestine. More than a century later, the institution still serves Palestinian girls in what is now Israel, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

In Nazareth, Amato delivered a message from Pope Benedict XVI, who approved the beautification over the summer. "From now on, she will be called beatify and a celebration will be held every year on 19 November."

Following his remarks, church officials unveiled a portrait of Ghattas to loud applause.

At the Vatican, the pope told congregants that Ghattas "discovered her vocation to religious life early on, and passionately pursued it ... To her goes the merit of having founded a congregation formed exclusively of local women with the aim of teaching religion, combating illiteracy and improving the condition of women in that time, in the same land where Jesus Himself had exalted their dignity."

"The beatification of this most significant figure of woman is of particular comfort to the Catholic community in the Holy Land and is an invitation to trust always, with firm hope, to Divine Providence and the maternal protection of Mary," Benedict said, concluding his weekly address in St. Peter's Square.

From childhood Ghattas desired to consecrate her life to God, church officials explained, asking to enter the Institute of the Sisters of Saint Joseph of the Apparition in Bethlehem when she was only 14. She worked with Father Joseph Tannous, co-founder of the institute and her spiritual advisor.

During her time in the central West Bank city, locals say, Ghattas lived at the Terra Santa Girls' School on Star Street, where pilgrims still visit the dorm where she is believed to have stayed.
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